Data breaches are becoming abundant in virtually every sector of the world. May it be cryptocurrency, social media, or banking. Hackers have been targeting nearly every sector to steal information and money. They have not spared healthcare sector. Cyberattacks have resulted in theft of personal information and reports of patients. Experts and security analysts have been alerting healthcare equipment manufacturers and providers to stay diligent about protecting their devices and equipment from potential cyber threats. Medical imaging devices are more prone to hacking if they do not have security patches. Cyber attackers can block or disable device functions in a ransom attack, disrupting operations in the hospitals.
Malware researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) presented a study known as, “Know Your Enemy: Characteristics of Cyber-Attacks on Medical Imaging Devices.” In this paper, researchers have mentioned that there is a probability of hacking unpatched computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines. They found that there were no security updates in many devices. Hackers can compromise CT machines to emit high rates of radiation for harming patients. Moreover, they can block MRI machines and stop operations by disabling them. These days medical devices have become a part of hospitals and more connected to the hospital networks. This made them vulnerable to hackers and endanger patient’s health.
The research study was part of the large project with the name, Cyber-Med. This project was started by Dr. Nir Nissim, head of BGU’s Malware Lab unit. Dr. Nissim said that the recent CT and MRI machines are not well equipped to counter attacks from hackers. The medical imaging devices take nearly three to seven years to hit the market from the conceptualization. The cyber threats will be changed over the period of few years and development process of devices needs to be changes as well.
Researchers determined potential attacks and vulnerabilities with medical imaging devices. They found that CT devices have been the most vulnerable to attacks due to its role in acute care imaging. They found four types of attacks that can compromise the devices. First type of attack includes manipulation of scan configuration files through installation of malware to control CT operation. Second type is infecting the host computer and change the functions of motors of medical devices to injure patients. Third way is to infect the host computer and manipulate the patient results or connect the results of one patient to another, which could lead to another exam. The final type of attack is to encrypt the report files and demand ransom from patients to decrypt the results. These types of attack could be fatal for patients and could lead to unexpected consequences if proper precautions are not taken due to false results.
Merely installing anti-virus will not provide the ultimate security. Uncovering vulnerabilities and proposing countermeasures for them are also necessary. The research activities need to be conducted in the security of medical devices to counter attacks from cyber criminals.